Threatened with Ban, Cambodian PM Hun Sen Deletes His Facebook Page

Cambodian Leader Deletes Facebook Page After Criticism
Prime Minister Hun Sen's Facebook page before it was deleted. (Photo: BBC)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen deleted his Facebook page after Meta’s oversight board threatened him with a six-month ban for inciting violence in a video where he threatened to have his opponents beaten up.

His followers first noticed his move away from Facebook when Hun Sen posted a message to his Telegram account late on Thursday, saying the platform was his preferred way of communicating with the public because it was “more effective.”

In his message to his 855,000 subscribers on Telegram, he wrote in Khmer, “I have decided to stop using Facebook, on which I have more than 14 million followers. I have requested my assistant to delete my Facebook account immediately. And I will also inform the company to delete my name from Facebook.”

Hun Sen did not mention the board’s findings about his violations against community standards as one of the reasons for leaving the platform. 

Instead, he claimed a surge of impersonating Facebook pages confusing his followers, as the reason for leaving the platform. His move prevented any decisions to be made by the board as they had 60 days to decide whether or not to implement the ban.

The video that had Hun Sen in hot waters was posted in January, where he was speaking about his opponents in a live stream, accusing them of interfering with the local elections in 2022.

“Face legal action in court, or I rally [the Cambodian] People’s Party [followers] for a demonstration and beat you up,” he said in Khmer in his 41-minute speech.

The live stream was viewed over 600,000 times and was reported to Meta, the parent company of Facebook for inciting violence. Facebook’s moderators determined the video as violating community standards, but left the video online because it was deemed to be “newsworthy.”

The oversight board from Meta disagreed with Facebook’s decision and ruled for the video to be taken down in March. It also pressed for further action, citing, “Hun Sen’s history of committing human rights violations and intimidating political opponents, as well as his strategic use of social media to amplify such threats.”

The board’s decision is a major blow to Hun Sen’s long-time commitment to the platform, urging even his officials to engage with the public on Facebook. The Cambodian PM also used his Facebook page to share family photos, promote tourism, and share policy announcements, along with threats to his opponents.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director, Phil Robertson, expressed support of Meta’s actions. “Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen is finally being called out for using social media to incite violence against his opponents, and he doesn’t like it one bit,” he said, also calling the move “overdue.”

“That’s the real story about why he’s running away from Facebook, which dared to hold him accountable to their community standards, and into the arms of Telegram, the favored social media messaging system of despots ranging from Russia to Myanmar,” added Robertson.